I remember my first summer in the Pacific Northwest after moving up from San Diego where I was born and raised. What was this foreign land where instead of being $5 a carton, blackberries actually grew like weeds in every backyard? Around the Seattle area, those that have blackberries on their property can rarely get around to picking all there is to offer. The birds and deer also have their fill and there are still leftovers. Those that don’t have blackberry bushes in their own yard can easily find a path off a side street or lot where they can go picking. Foraging at its finest.
So when we came back from Thailand to our home base on Vashon island to find all the blackberry bushes lining the yard in full swing, laden with juicy, ripe, perfect blackberries, I was beside myself.
I went out picking them as often as time allowed, eating most of them raw, but also making muffins as well as a cream cheesey puff-pastry situation before making these crumb bars. I actually ended up making these bars the evening before we left the island--strictly out of principle--trying to get the most out of blackberry season as I possibly could.
The fresh thyme in these gives them that mysterious edge that I always gravitate towards in baking. Crumb bars are something familiar and comforting to most of us, so now there’s that lil’ somethin’ somethin’ that keeps things interesting. Forever a fan of infusing all baked things with a floral or herbal component (see chocolate cake with basil frosting, lavender mocha bundts or cherry scones with juniper glaze), throwing some thyme into the mix seemed like a harmless addition to me at the time and it turned out lovelier than I expected. It is detectable, but not in a blaring way that would steal the limelight away from the blackberries or the sweetness of the dessert.
In all honesty, I had both fresh rosemary and thyme on hand, but rosemary was going into the main course that night, so by default I chose thyme to go into the dessert. But if you preferred, I think finely chopped fresh rosemary would work equally well in this.
These crumb bars require 10 ingredients and 10-15 mins of hands-on time. They keep well in the fridge for days and can feed a crowd. So should you find yourself in want of a good blackberry dessert in late summer berry season, I think I have something for you here. Serving suggestions can be found at the bottom of the recipe!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
1.5 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (8 ounces) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks or grated on a cheese grater
2.5 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 Tbs lemon juice
1.5 Tbs cornstarch
4 cups (roughly measured, loosely packed) fresh blackberries
1 Tbs turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
extra thyme sprigs for garnish
WHAT YOU’LL DO
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 celcius)
Lightly butter or spray a 9×13 inch pan.
In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, the baking powder, salt, and 2 tsp of the chopped, fresh thyme. Use a pastry cutter or your hands to blend in the butter until the butter is pea sized or smaller and combined with the dry mixture. Mix in the egg. The dough will be crumbly. Dump out half of dough into the prepared tray and press it down firmly into as even layer as possible to form your bottom crust.
In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, remaining 1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves, and the blackberries. With a fork or potato masher, slightly crush the berries until they appear to be somewhat uniform in size. Spread the macerated blackberry mixture evenly over the crust. It will be juicy; that’s okay.
Lastly, crumble the remaining 1/2 of the dough over the berry layer as evenly as possible. Don’t press it down as firmly as you did the bottom one. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar on top, if desired, for an extra crunch.
Bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is starting to turn golden brown, turning once in the oven for even browning. The berry mixture may bubble up slightly around the edges or in pockets. We’re okay with this.
Allow to cool for at least 1 hour at room temp before serving, although you will have the most success cutting these into picture-perfect squares if the tray has completely chilled in the refrigerator after the initial cooling.
These tasted great served slightly warm with ice cream, but were sloppier in presenation. Think cobbler style.
But they honestly were my favorite actually after they were completely chilled, the following day actually, straight from the refrigerator. So you have options.
I cut these into 15 squares, (3 by 5) but you could easily cut them smaller and get 24 (4x6) out of the deal.